NEW YORK - APRIL 23: Chipper Jones #10 and Omar Infante #4 of the Atlanta Braves collide and drop a fly ball against the New York Mets on April 23, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
The postseason? Well, sure - who the hell knows how the NL East will shake out this season, let alone the Wild Cards. The change of heart? Methinks Jones meant what he said when he said he's walking away from the game at season's end.
That leaves 14 more occasions when Mets fans can renew their rivalry in person with the Atlanta Braves stalwart. Two weeks' worth of reminding a grown man named Larry that grown men don't call themselves "Chipper." Approximately 42 hours of cursing Jones' name under our collective breath every time he won't show his damned age.
Before it's time to gripe about a Braves' lineup lacking Jones, the Mets indicated that they intend to somehow honor him in some manner at some undetermined date before this season reaches its end. Presuming they won't offer the club's still-beating heart on a platter to him in honor of all the times he tore it from our chests, I'm not certain what it might look like.
And I'm not sure that I'm ready for what I will see.A quick glance at the ol' box scores showed that the Mets' longstanding rivalry with the Braves incorporated Larry Jones for the first time on May 9, 1995. Jones went 2-for-4 that day, scoring his first Shea Stadium single off Bret Saberhagen in the top of the third before taking Josias Manzanillo deep to right for his first Shea Stadium home run in the top of the ninth, which later became the game-winning run in a 3-2 Braves win.
I turned 14 years old that day. I can literally say that Jones's introduction to the Shea Faithful ruined my birthday.
He's ruined a lot of days since then, for myself and Mets fans of all ages. You know that. I know that. And before yesterday's 6-1 win over the Braves at Turner Field, Jones admitted that he knows that, too:
"It's no secret my relationship with the fans of New York. And I can only say that some of the games I've had on that stage up there is a big reason why. That, and one comment I made back in the day. They don't let you forget."
Oh, that "one comment." You remember the comment, don't you? The Mets' failed effort to proceed past the 1999 NLCS encouraged Larry Jones to advise: "Now, all the Mets fans can go home and put their Yankees' stuff on."
When I heard the Mets planned to acknowledge Jones in some capacity later this season, I thought about that comment by Jones uttered in 1999 at I settled into my collegiate digs at Syracuse. It's not the salt on the wound, or even that the wound is open.
It's that I wonder what we'll be wearing when the "ceremony" takes place. It's whether the Mets will still be playing meaningful baseball by the point it's time to wave goodbye. It's whether we can muster up a big enough showing of orange and blue to boo the hell out of Larry Jones and let him know that we consider him a worthy adversary, and that we hope the final pitch he sees from a Mets pitcher buckles his knees for a called third strike.
I don't want to attend a Mets-centric ceremony honoring Larry Jones because I still struggle to acknowledge that he was a key cog in the stumbling block to the Mets' postseason chances during my baseball adolescence. I still don't want to say how good he is, or how well he's fared in general and against the Mets in particular. I also shudder at the thought that the Mets' record may leave them a bit lacking in the pennant race by the time this little shindig transpires.
But I do want to see him off one last time, wave him goodbye and derisively chant his first name to remind him why he felt so compelled to give his youngest son such a beautiful middle name. I want to be reminded that the Braves were and are as much of a pest as the Marlins and Phillies have ever been and presently continue to be. I want to be reminded that games against Larry Jones mean more, and his presence in a Braves jersey made Atlanta such a worthy opponent for so long.
The Atlanta Braves make their final visit to Citi Field during Sept. 7-9 and I can only hope that Jones is still healthy enough to play. And that the Mets are still capable enough to mount a real challenge. And that not too many fans turned their gaze to the New York football Giants and Jets by that point.
I still don't believe Larry Jones is worthy of recognition by the Mets.
And I wouldn't miss it for the world.